Addressing the skills gap: RIN workshop

Today I was invited to participate in a workshop organised by the Research Information Network (RIN) to specifically address last year’s report ‘Mind the Skills Gap‘ which focused on training for researchers in information seeking and management. The report had concluded that activity in this area was uncoordinated and not generally based on an assessment of needs. Today’s workshop was intended to help us move forward in this area and brought together a wide range of experts in the information literacy field from the library and information profession, along with others from the research community and research councils. Representatives included among others the British Library, RCUK, RIN, SCONUL, Vitae, plus a number of key librarians in the information literacy field.
We started the day with three presentations from Sheila Corrall, Head of the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield, Kate Reading from RCUK and Tristram Hooley from Vitae. We were then divided into three groups and were asked to focus on three themes: strategic coordination and collaboration between training organisations, matching training to researchers’ professional needs, and improving the quality and delivery of training provision within institutions. I was in a fairly small group with several other librarians and representatives from British Library, RIN and Vitae. We were asked to focus on recommendations as to how we could move forward the agenda in relation to each theme and the groups came together in the afternoon to round up their conclusions and recommendations. It was hard work, but an extremely positive day, with widespread recognition that information literacy was a key issue and one where librarians had done a lot of valuable work. Clearly by working in collaboration with the research community, we can take this work to the next level.

Some possible recommendations for the future included: the need to draft what a good researcher might like look – something that bridges the gap between the RCUK’s joint skills statement and the SCONUL 7 pillars of information literacy – using a common terminology. Other ideas were to undertake an analysis of stakeholders and what they are doing in this area, to create an advocacy group to push these issues forward using representatives from today’s workshop, to look at providing more support for supervisors, who are a critical influence on PhD students. We also identified several areas where further research could be undertaken, for example to develop case studies of the impact and effectiveness of IL training to date, to scope out what exists in terms of needs assessment tools and to analyse institutional research strategies to discover the extent to which they include information training.  Following on from today I intend to submit some of my lesson plans and the programme outline of MI512 to the Vitae database of practice. RIN will be producing a written summary of the workshop shortly for consultation with the community but I just wanted to share some of today’s experiences while it was fresh in my mind.

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